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Welcome to Sue Courtney's web log (blog) of vinous ramblings.  It's my on line journal and an adjunct to my website which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.

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Archive: October 2010
Oct 31st: Festival of Wines
Oct 28th: Festival of Roses
Oct 27th: Godello is Verdelho
Oct 23rd: Waiting for Godello
Oct 21st: More wine show results
Oct 19th: Mimi, the new girl in town
Oct 18th: Hello, hello, goodbye, goodbye.
Oct 17th: Is wine really cheaper than water?
Oct 8th: Rimu Grove Pinot Gris 2009 x 2
Oct 6th: Martinborough Vineyards Chardonnay 2008
Oct 5th: Bella by Invivo Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Oct 4th: Blackenbrook Nelson Muscat 2010
Oct 2nd: Seresin Estate Chardonnay 2008
Oct 1st: Toi Toi Brookdale Reserve Pinot Gris 2009
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Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 31st 2010

Festival of Wines

While my energetic sisters were running the Auckland half marathon this morning, one of the very few opportunities to foot it across the Auckland Harbour Bridge, I took the less energetic option of driving across the Harbour Bridge to Villa Maria Estate for the annual Trade Day that, for the first time, was open to their Cellar Club members as well. It really was a festival of wines with all the latest releases and some vintage releases as well from Villa Maria, Vidal, Esk Valley and Thornbury - in all over 80 wines. My mission was to try some of the new varieties they had on show.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Arneis 2010
This is the first vintage of the variety that's called The Little Rascal and I believe with its poor fruit set, it is true to name. The fruit comes from the company's Ngaruroro River vineyard sites in Hawkes Bay and it was fermented with natural and aromatic yeasts. The bouquet is delicately floral with slightly musky/nutty scents adding to its appeal. With a smooth slippery texture and lovely ripe grapey flavours, finishing dry, it seemed to me like the combo of a good Viognier and a good Pinot Gris and I think it will have wide appeal - after all Ar-nayz is not too hard to say. It has 13% alcohol and RRP is $24.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Verdelho 2010
This is grown on the vineyard surrounding Villa Maria's Auckland winery and I tasted this immediately after the Arneis. The first impression is that is has more acidity than the Arneis with green apple and grape skin scents. Steely on entry to palate but then softening with a flower musk-like oiliness creeping in and the lingering taste is of apples and pears with a delicate underpinning of spice. It has 13.5% alcohol and RRP is $27.

I immediately popped across to the other side of the room to the Esk valley stand to try the Hawkes Bay rendition.

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Verdelho 2010
As with the Villa Maria wine, apples dominate the aroma and infiltrate the grapey flavour. A full-bodied dry and very crisp wine throughout but this was a freshly opened bottle that seemed to have come straight out of the fridge. It seemed to me quite phenolic. Alcohol is 14% and RRP is $24.

Speaking to winemaker Gordon Russell later, he says Verdelho is very aromatic when young but the aromas drop out quickly. He's probably tasted more Verdelho from around the world than anyone else in New Zealand and he sees a similarity in all the Verdelho and Godello wines (see my Oct 27th post) and one remarkable character that comes through in them all is 'bitters' such as you get in quinine or Campari. Perhaps this bitter character is what I thought was phenolics. More research on my part is required.

The other new wine I really wanted to try had beckoned to me when I browsed through the tasting booklet.

Villa Maria Reserve Grenache 2007
The lovely bright colour of this Hawkes Bay Grenache is purple and cherry red and the aromas and flavours hint at sweet oak, strawberry and cherry fruit, cake spice and pepper. If tasted blind you would think it Australian or perhaps even Spanish, but a mighty fine one with an incredibly silky texture and a nice touch of savouriness to the finish. Made from 85% Grenache with 7.5% Syrah and 6.5% Malbec in the blend, alcohol is 14% and when the wine gets released, which I hope will be soon, it will cost around $60. A bit pricey but worth seeking out for the experience.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 28th 2010

Festival of Roses

What I love about this time of year is that it's rose season.  And I'm not talking about the wine, not this time anyway, I'm talking about the flowers that are so entwined with history and romance - and of courses days of wine and roses. The big Festival of Roses at the Parnell Rose Gardens in Auckland is on the calendar for the weekend of 6th and 7th November, but already many of the rose bushes are covered in blooms. That's perfect timing for for me to get out there and smell the roses without the crowds and find out exactly which ones remind me of wine. Years ago I found my two favourite Sauvignon Blanc roses - the striking yellow rose, Friesia, and Pink Panther, which like its name suggests, is pink.  I've an array of Gewurztraminer roses, particularly the shell pink Cecile Brunner, and the similarly coloured David Austin English rose, Sharif Asma. The rich red rose, Dublin Bay, is my Syrah rose.

Now I've found a whole array of Pinot Gris roses. One in particular, Tropical Skies, so heady in its fruity perfume, it reminded me of the perfume in this week's Wine of the Week.  That wine is Locharburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2009Click here to read my review.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 27th 2010

Godello is Verdelho

In reference to my Oct 23rd posting (below) about Godello, I received an email from Gordon Russell, winemaker at Esk Valley in the Hawkes Bay and the crafter of a very fine Hawkes Bay Verdelho.

"Godello is actually Verdelho by its Spanish name," he writes, adding that Margaret Rand wrote about Verdelho in the World of Fine Wine (magazine) and this fact was incorporated in the story.  

"Since then I have tried all Godello's available and have no doubt that it is true," says Gordon.

In fact now, if I search on Google for  Godello / Verdelho, there is no doubt that these names are indeed synonyms.

I hope to try Gordon's latest edition of Esk Valley Verdelho on Sunday.  I'll report back sometime after that.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 23rd 2010

Waiting for Godello

. . . and it has been worth the wait. Godello is a ancient Spanish grape variety that makes very tasty wine . . . at least the the one I tasted the other night, my first Godello ever, was very tasty indeed.  It's from a company called Telmo Rodriguez, which is named after one of the founders, and the region is the Valdeorras DOC in the Galicia area of north west Spain.

Telmo Rodriguez Gaba do Xil Godello 2009is very pale in colour with a delicate sweet nutty aroma with hints of honeysuckle coming through. Smooth and moderately full in the palate with a nutty creamy richness, hints of apricot, alcohol warmth and underlying citrus, there are nuances in the wine that make you think a) Chardonnay, or b) Viognier, but it's something completely different, utterly fascinating and extremely tasty. Named for the river Xil (ancient name of the river Sil that runs through the region), the attractive label displays a dozen bridges.

Where has Godello been all my life?   Seems that is a question many people are asking. Thanks to the Telmo Rodriguez, Godello and other forgotten grape varieties are coming back into fashion.

I tasted the wine at the First Glass Wednesday tasting with the theme And now for Something Different.  They are selling this wine for $21.99 a bottle. Click here to read all my notes of other delicious different wines.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 21st 2010

More Wine Show Results

There's been a flurry of 'little' wine shows around the country highlighting excellence in Upper North Island wines, Hawkes Bay wines and aromatic wines.

The Inaugural Upper North Island Wine Challenge is a new initiative by the Wine Science Programme at the University of Auckland and Northern Winegrowers. From a total of 65 wines entered in the competition just one gold medal was awarded. This went to Waiheke-based Miro Estate for its 2008 Bordeaux blend simply called 'Miro'. As the only gold medal winner it was also acclaimed the Champion Wine of the Show.  Silver medals were awarded to 10 wines and bronze medals to 18 wines. There were 15 award winners from Northland, 14 from Auckland, and one from Waikato. Bob Campbell was the Chairman of Judges.  Let's hope more of the Upper North Island wineries get behind this wine challenge next year.

The Hawkes Bay Wine Awards, now in its 10th year, had quite a few more golds as expected from a much larger entry. Twenty nine gold medals were awarded with Church Road Hawkes Bay Syrah 2009 winning the accolade of Champion Wine of the show.  Esk Valley Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2008 was the runner up to the Champion wines.
Click here for the full results.

Down in the quake-ravaged city of Christchurch the International Aromatic Wine Competition has been judged.  Now in its eighth year, this competition is for Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Viognier and other wine varieties including Muscat, Verdelho, Arneis and Sauvignon Gris, made in an aromatic style from any internationally recognised region. There were 377 wines entered with fifteen gold medals awarded. The Supreme Champion Wine in Show Trophy was awarded to West Brook Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2010.  West Brook had their first Gewurz vintage in 2009 and both the 2009 and 2010 wines were awarded gold in the show. Well done West Brook.

So far this season we've had six shows in New Zealand - as well as the above there's been the  Bragato Wine Awards, the New Zealand International Wine Show and the New World Wine Awards. From my calculation there have been 234 different New Zealand wines awarded gold medals in these shows.  Check out my latest compilation list at

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 19th 2010

Mimi, the new girl in town.

After yesterday's announcement of five of Pernod Richard's sparkling wine brands going to Lion Nathan, the sparkling wine sector is set to become more competitive than ever before in the lead-up to Christmas. Now a new girl has arrived in town to shake things up even further. Her name is Mimi and when she keeps company on the supermarket shelf with the Lindauers and the Brancotts at the same price point, she is the one that will be chosen to take home because she's such a cutie and will have wide appeal for girls and women of a certain age. mimi.jpg (29173 bytes) 

The wine in the bottle is pretty smart too. Made from equal components of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes, this bottle fermented bubbles has spent at least 9 months on yeast lees. This imparts lovely bready aromatics with a delicate strawberry infusion.  In the mouth the mousse is tingling and the flavours are crisp, steely and refreshing.

Mimi is from the Morton Estate family and is the new little sister in the range.  She be around about $11.99 on special.

While Mimi will appeals to the girls, the guys can pay a little more for the always reliable Morton Estate Premium Reserve Brut.  Same base wine, just double the time on yeast lees in the bottle before being dressed for the market. The longer time on yeast lees imparts a more malty toasty character to the wine. It's very smart bubbles. Expect to pay around $15.99 on special.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 18th 2010

Hello, hello, goodbye, goodbye.

In this week's Wine of the Week, we say "hello, hello" to a new artisan wine brand, Ellero, but in one of the biggest industry shake-ups in years, Pernod Ricard New Zealand says "goodbye, goodbye" to some of its famous wine brands. The rumours had been circulating that something big was happening in the Pernod Ricard camp and now we know.  Lion Nathan New Zealand is buying twelve Pernod Ricard wine brands while Lion Nathan's joint venture partner, Indevin, will take ownership of the Pernod Ricard's Gisborne winery, all Pernod Ricard owned vineyards in the Gisborne region and the Twin River's vineyard in the Hawkes Bay. The wine brands including the sparkling wines Lindauer, Verde, Aquila, Bernadino and Chardon and still wine brands Bensen Block, Corbans, Huntaway, Jackman Ridge, Riverlands, Saints and Timara and changes take effect on November 1st.

Pernod Ricard recently announced the world-wide renaming of the Montana brand to Brancott Estate after the company's premier vineyard in Marlborough.

“We remain highly committed to New Zealand, our people and the long term development of our wine and spirits portfolio, including leading New Zealand wine brands Brancott Estate, Stoneleigh, Church Road, Deutz, Boundary and Triplebank,” says Fabian Partigliani, the Managing Director of Pernod Ricard New Zealand.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 17th 2010

Is wine really cheaper than water?

It hit the headlines world wide. Here in New Zealand, wine is cheaper than water. But for wine to be cheaper than water for a consumer, it all boils down to the water and the wine they drink. I'm sure the people who buy the cheapest of cheapest wine  - in the study this was cask wine - don't splurge out on 'expensive' bottled water when they can get good clean water from their tap for free. It should also be pointed out that the study shows that milk is cheaper than bottled water too.

In my house bottled water comes from the tap, the tap draws from the water tank, the water tank is filled with rain water collected on the roof. Pine needles and bird poo add extra flavour.

But wine has never been cheaper than it is now and most of it is because of a plethora of new brands where the bottle prices are discounted at the supermarket or with online wine discounters for $4.99, $5.99, $6.99 and not much more.  Who owns these brands?   Look at the back label and the producer's name and address are for cryptic puzzle solvers.  Many are brands created for surplus wine and there will be no connection on the bottle to the owner's main wine brand in order not to jeopardise it. Someone told me the other day about a brand such as this that they created.  $4.99 a bottle and a 4.5 star rating (somewhere). So in this case it's not that the wine is no good, it's just that if they sold it for this price with their main brand name, they would ruin the pricing structure of their main brand forever. My tip is if you see cheap wine bargains like this, buy a bottle before you splash out on a case. And if you are a bargain cask wine drinker and reading this blog, then you are definitely in the wrong place.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 8th 2010

Rimu Grove Pinot Gris 2009 x 2

Pinot Gris drinkers have never had it so lucky. The wines from 2009 and more recently 2010, are looking fab. But what I like about the wines from 2009 is the richness and weight that many of them are accruing. These two are great examples.

Rimu Grove Nelson Pinot Gris 2009 ($29) is the more elegant of the pair.  It's light citrine in colour with floral nuances to the nutty, savoury bready aromas and is just off dry to the taste. A hint of vanilla in the background complements the subtle fruit that is suggestive of apricots and nectarine. Like all great Pinot Gris, this is about texture.  It's lightly oily with richness to the mouthfeel, a creamy silkiness to the flow and warmth to the finish. I though perhaps some oak and although it doesn't mention this on the bottle, the wine notes on the website say 15% was aged in oak in four months and all components were aged on lees. It has 13.5% alcohol, 8 g/l residual sugar and just 5 g/l total acidity.
This could be a main course wine and we successfully matched it to our rendition of Thai-scented meat patties served with noodles and a Thai coriander and lime dressing. This was a humdinger of a match.

Bronte by Rimu Grove Nelson Pinot Gris 2009 ($22) is a deeper gold in colour and sweeter and more honeyed to the taste, which makes me think some botrytis-affected grapes have added to these factors and the richness and weight. Honeysuckle, spice and delicate hints of stonefruit fill the bouquet and the juicy, fresh flavours are reminiscent of toffee apple with a touch of spice and a squeeze of tangelo. If it didn't have the balancing winey savouriness, it could almost be a late harvest wine - but I think it's best enjoyed, nicely chilled, as an aperitif. It has 13% alcohol, 12 g/l residual sugar and just 5.1 g/l total acidity and like its sibling, 15% was aged in oak in four months and all components were aged on lees.

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Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 6th 2010

Martinborough Vineyards Chardonnay 2008

Funny how things happen in pairs or even trios. So I had been enjoying one of the most delicious chardonnays from Martinborough, enough to make it this week's Wine of the Week, the review of which you can read here.   Now I've just got home from the weekly First Glass wine tasting and, would you believe it, the wine was served there as well. And gosh, it went down a treat.  For the tasting it had been put in the walk-in drinks refrigerator for a couple of hours so I didn't immediately recognise it, not having tasted it at that cooler temperature before. But soon the dots started to be joined, especially when one of the questions on this wine we were blind tasting was, "Is it from Gisborne, Martinborough or Marlborough?".  

Tonight the Martinborough Vineyards Chardonnay 2008 had a mealy, creamy aroma with caramel corn and spicy oak. A rich, sophisticated wine with a smooth seamless texture, hints of stonefruit, a touch of melon and a very long rounded finish. Total class.

It's nice to know it can withstand chilling as some of the chardonnays from further south, with their higher acidity, become  a little awkward when they get too cold.

Talking about the Wednesday tastings, I've now posted the notes for the last three tastings in September. Two of the tastings were mainly gold medal wines while the other was a tasting of the Trophy winning wines from the NZ International Wine Show.  Click here to check out my tasting notes.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 5th 2010

Bella by Invivo Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Wine for the fashion conscious - that's Invivo - the brand with one of the most fashionable labels, designed by Zambesi. So of course Invivo wines are poured wherever Zambesi shows its fashion line, such as at NZ Fashion Week. And what could be more appealing to the fashion conscious than a wine that has 30% less alcohol and 30% fewer calories? This is Bella by Invivo Sauvignon Blanc 2010. While not as boisterous as some sauv blancs on the nose, from the gooseberry and capsicum aromas there is no doubting what the variety is - it is distinctive in that respect. And on tasting you would have no idea this was a lower alcohol wine. Most sauv blancs clock in around at around 13.5% alcohol but this only has 9%. And unlike most lower alcohol wines, it is not sweet. There a lovely seam of lime and mandarin citrus underpinned by classic gooseberry flavours and those tangy summer herbs - fresh, bright, juicy and good for your waistline. About $22. Check out for more.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 4th 2010

Blackenbrook Nelson Muscat 2010

The aroma of this wine is just so tantalising - like fresh muscat grapes, jasmine and honeysuckle all rolled into one. You think this wine is going to be sweet, and it's slightly sweetish, yes, but there's a well balanced citrus-like tang running through the wine that keeps the fresh, fruity sweetness in check. And as well there's a tingle of ginger-like spice that adds to the tantalising verve. It's a wine for a gorgeous blue sky day. But watch this if you thinking of having it as an afternoon quaffer because it's so darn easy to drink, yet it has 13% alcohol by volume and that's quite serious compared to many of the lighter fizzier styles of muscat (moscato) that are around. So accompany this sociable tipple with canapes - I'm thinking a Nelson wine with tangy citrus, like this one has, accompanied with Nelson scallops cooked with a little chilli, lime and coriander would go down a treat. A tray of Asian style appetisers, such as spring rolls, money bags, curry puffs or spicy pork balls would also do the trick. But if you want something summery, then what about melon and prosciutto, the musk melon if you can get it. The saltiness of the prosciutto will nicely counteract the fruity freshness of this wine. Online price $21.90 a bottle.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 2nd 2010

Seresin Estate Chardonnay 2008

I received two bottles of Chardonnay from Seresin Estate so it seemed like a good idea to taste them side by side.  Boy, was I surprised when my most preferred wine was the cheaper of the two.  Seresin Estate Marlborough Chardonnay 2008 really pushed my buttons. It's savoury, zesty and powerful with a silky, seamless texture and a rich, creamy flavour with butterscotch and melon pushing through to linger on the finish.

The other wine was the 'reserve'. Seresin Chardonnay Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2008 has fruity aromatics with a pineapple infusion to the sweet, bready, wild yeast scents. There's a touch of butterscotch to the flavour and loads of citrus zestiness that lean more towards grapefruit. A little more grainy in texture than the 'estate' and simply masses of oak. 

Interestingly, both these wines are from the same Chardonnay clones harvested from the same vineyard - Raupo Creek in this instance. The grapes undergo natural ferment in French oak, of which 25% is new and remain in barrel for 11 months, during which time natural malolactic fermentation takes place. The difference is in the blending. The 'reserve' ($39 and 14% alcohol) is made from the most concentrated portions - it's made to improve with age. The 'estate' ($29 and 13.5% alcohol) is a softer wine and, as my tasting proved, ready to drink now - delicious to drink now, in fact.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 1st 2010

Toi Toi Brookdale Reserve Pinot Gris 2009

The fresh, summery label of this wine attracted me. Toi toi, the tall native pampas grass with its feathery fronds that shimmer in the breeze, go hand in hand with summer and now that daylight saving has started - and the rain has stopped - summer is not very far away.

Toi Toi Brookdale Reserve Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009 is straw gold in colour with an aroma of pear and honeysuckle and full-bodied, mouthfilling flavours with a tingle of ginger-like spice adding to the richness of the pear and apple fruit. Then a burst of sweet citrus zest on the dryish finish adds to the bright summery feel.

Toi Toi Wines won gold and the coveted Champion Riesling Trophy for their 2009 Dry Riesling at the 2009 NZ International Wine Show. This Pinot Gris is another delicious wine from the company. It has 13% alcohol, a screwcap closure and an 'online' price of $49 a twin pack ( = $24.50 a bottle), GST inclusive and delivered freight free.

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